What an evening.
Obviously, as the title indicates, it didn’t go well for the good guys. But it was a great event (put on in a very short amount of time, I might add), and I thought they did really well to get 2,000 people in the gate on a World Series game night.
I’ll touch on the whole ‘playing Texas’ thing soon, but let’s talk basketball first.
JJ Caldwell didn’t play
Newcomer, primary ball-handler, and passer extraordinaire JJ Caldwell was held out of this game (presumably because of his suspension), which threw a flurry of new faces into the cauldron of Shaka Smart’s famously frenetic full court pressure.
And y’all, we didn’t hold up well.
The Longhorns pressure repeatedly caused early turnovers, and even when we broke through we struggled to find the killer pass before Texas could recover. This was a pretty good test for life without Caldwell in our big opener against West Virginia (aka Press Virginia), and I have to say I came away a little unimpressed.
Our guards eventually settled in, but I also think Texas tried to focus on their half court defense in the second half. Had they pressured for the entire 40 minutes, we would have been in trouble.
An Abysmal night on offense
Our half court sets looked like... well, they looked like pre-season half court sets. These numbers aren’t pretty.
- FG: 20-66 (30.3%)
- 3PT FG: 4-20 (20%)
- Assist/TO: 9 assists, 13 TO’s
And if you remove our only decent shooter (Morelos — 19 points; 6-11 FG; 3-4 3PT), the numbers turn even darker.
Oddly enough, we were kept in the game by our ability to get to the line and stick 75% of our free throws, which is a very un-A&M sentence. Here’s hoping we can keep that moving while we wait for the outside stuff to fall.
Other performances of note
The big winner for me was Jay Jay Chandler (7 points in 8 minutes), who was a pissed off ball of fire that snapped at Longhorns and forced his way to the rim. Pretty much the quickest way to my heart. Morelos (who led the team in points and started a shoving match that brought the intensity wayyyyy up in the last 10 minutes) wins an Honorable Mention here.
On the flip side, the remaining new guards were found a bit lacking. Flagg and Starks never really jumped out during their 19 minutes each, and new grad transfer Duane Wilson seemed unsettled at the point. Hogg, who didn’t look fully healthy, also had a night to forget (24 minutes, 0 points).
Overall, we spotted Texas a big lead and we couldn’t quite make it back.
A final note before I sign off...
It was fun to play against these guys. For most of us, Longhorns are the single largest non-A&M group of supporters in our lives. Our largest non-Aggie block of co-workers went to Texas. The largest non-Aggie block from our high school went to Texas. Hell, for many of us, portions of our extended (or immediate) family went to Texas.
For that reason, this rivalry matters more than any series against LSU, Arkansas, or (gulp) South Carolina. That can be easy to forget during SEC conference play, but when Rice’s gym was hit with the full weight of the rivalry down the stretch, it was a moment. It felt bigger.
Stop hiding behind market reach. Stop hiding behind brand exposure. Stop hiding behind “it helps them more than it helps us.” Stop hiding, period.
Bring the game back.